We've been running around like crazy, but this season's birthing has gone well and there's plenty of spring milk!
Maggie, our Red No. 13, and her ten-minute-old baby
Maggie was born the year Ryan joined the farm. Ryan was showing a party of schoolchildren into the barn just after her birth. One particular child wanted to know what we would call the kid. We don't name all the goats, but Ryan has a lot of flair with ladies, so he naturally named the goat after the child. So, Maggie, if you're reading this, your namesake is well and has just given birth to her first baby of 2010, a little girl. Maggie the goat and several other mothers follow Ryan, or bleat for his attention, just before giving birth. They want his company as they go into labor. Popular with all the ladies!
BabyGoatLand. Starter Shacks for the Discerning Baby
All the baby girls are housed in the starter shacks of BabyGoatLand, each group according to size and personality. There'll probably be sixteen or so groups by the end of April. We've had amazing help from friends, and we're making the spring cheeses of 2010, so do come and visit soon.
Valentine's Day saw the birth of our first baby goat of 2010. The babies are an irresistible mix of soft chocolate and mushroom browns, white and black, and a delight to watch snoozing on their straw or leggily staggering after one another. Perhaps a third of mothers need a little help with birthing, an extra hand to gently tug the babies out. We always have the liveliest older babies in Tony's Pen at weekends, so do come and admire them close up.
Like all other best-practice dairies, we separate the babies from their mothers shortly after birth, to make sure each kid is fed well. The mothers have between one and four babies, and will usually feed the strongest more than the rest. We bottle-feed each baby goat fresh, pasteurized goat milk, and formula enhanced with vitamins and minerals, for about six to eight weeks, until they're all at optimum weight.
We can't help but feel regretful at taking babies from mothers, but must follow veterinary guidelines for dairy herds, to ensure best possible health for every goat. This way, too, we limit the spread of complications that can show up in later life. For example, older goats may get arthritis as a result of infections received shortly after birth if left with their mother.
At two weeks of age, we vaccinate, dehorn and tattoo the babies with their identifying code. We use the American Dairy Goat Association code, to let us know the kid's mother and father. The babies will live in "Baby Goatland", separated by similar age and size into little fenced groups of six to seven goats. The larger, more dominant babies won't bully the weaker ones, this way, producing a more successfully social herd.
Since we're expecting more than 200 babies, this is a lot of work! We have a cot in the barn, and some sleepless nights ahead.
"We have... stories about Bart... during our commuting time"
"He will be remembered forever in that painting... about him conducting the farm"
Thank you to everybody who wrote or came to our memorial for Bart, our iconic llama, who died in the first week of January aged about 28 years. We name only a few animals. We are farmers, not pet owners. Animals are born and animals die every year on the farm. Bart was nonetheless a legend for our family and countless visitors, with his evident pleasure in guarding the baby goats, his occasional close-up-and-personal inspection of somebody with scented shampoo, and his unforgettable teeth!
Friends brought photographs and laughed at our slideshow of Bart moments. We were gently serenaded by Mike McCall and soothed into reflection with the debut performance of the Harley Farmonica Band. Our magnificent cook produced lunch (and thank you to those who brought dishes with them). We scattered grass seed over the Heart of Bart, his resting place in the pasture overseeing the babies. Goodbyes are an opportunity for happy memories, for gentle thought outside the rush of life.
Happy New Year! We've had a busy two weeks planting garlic for the 2010 farm dinners, and spring cleaning the shop and hayloft. We oiled the tables and floor (a thank you to Ryan's friend Adam!) and repainted the walls and stairs. The chicken tractors are out of the pastures , sheltering near the chicken coop, so that newly seeded grass can mature without our muddy footsteps. And we're planning irrigation in the south field, which involves an exciting tunnel under the road.